Protecting Joints While At Home

By James Dungca, OTR/L, CHT

Adhering to the current social distancing guidelines, we are finding ourselves spending more and more time at home. Being away from sporting activities, gym workouts and other high impact activities, you may feel that your joint health and safety is better than ever. This might be true to an extent but repetitive forces are still being imparted on your joints through your work, recreation and daily activities at home.

Generally speaking, a joint is an area where two or more bones meet allowing our body parts to move and function. The ends of these bones are covered by articular cartilage that provides cushion and reduces friction between the moving parts. Protecting these articular surfaces are key in continued long-lasting, pain-free use.

Here are three ways to protect your joints while you are at home:

1. Activity Modification

Regardless if you are working from home on your laptop, making a casserole for dinner or playing your ukulele, it is essential that you modify your activities accordingly.

  • Break up your different activities into segments and take frequent breaks to reduce the amount of stress on your joints.
  • Make sure your work and recreation are using different joints (i.e. not working on the computer then playing piano).
  • Transfer bulk items (e.g. rice, beans, dog food) into smaller containers and store them at chest level or below.
  • Start your meal preparation in the morning and continue cooking and baking in the afternoon and evening or the next day.
  • Use small garbage bags and lighter loads of laundry to reduce heavy carrying.

2. Ergonomic Tools and Equipment

Use of proper tools and equipment can save unnecessary wear and tear of joints on a daily basis.

  • Larger computer mice, thicker writing utensils and more robust handles on your silverware and gardening tools reduce stress on the smaller joints in your hands.
  • Gloves for activities like gardening and working out further support your joints and make smaller grips feel “bigger”.
  • Jar openers, 5-in-1 tools and automated tools like stand mixers reduce repetitive heavy work of your hands.

3. Postural Stretches and Exercises

Postural stretches and exercises can keep you in proper alignment and can reduce unnecessary stress on joints and muscle tissue.

  • Perform light stretches and exercises like scapular retraction, chin tucks, forearm stretches and tendon glides, which can help strengthen “workhorse muscles”.
  • Correct your posture and “sit tall” when doing activities like watching Netflix or working on your laptop can prevent undue stress to your core and spine which reduces the strain on your distal joints, like your elbows, wrists and hands.
  • Ensure your home ergonomics are correct at your workstation (please refer to Working From Home: Laptop Ergonomics).

Please talk with your physician or therapist regarding any questions or clarifications about your joint health and safety. If you are experiencing joint pain or discomfort while at home, call us at 800.698.1280 to schedule an appointment. TeleMedicine appointments are now available so you can speak with an orthopedic specialist in the comfort of your own home.

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